I’ve just returned to Mysore from Rajasthan, ‘up north’ – like back home, it’s significantly more chilly up there!
So, I’ve said on here before that I feel like India is teaching me all kinds of lessons, and not necessarily the ones I expected – well, last week was no different. You may have noticed I’ve been away from the blog for a while. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly I’ve spent most of my ‘romantic break’ being bed-ridden with a flu that morphed seamlessly and grotesquely into a sickness bug. I don’t want to divulge too many unwanted details, but the last time I actually vomited was back in 2001, when I last visited Rajasthan – the ‘Land of Kings’ seems to be one of the few global triggers for my gag reflex.
The second reason is that I’ve been a bit scared to return to my blog if I’m honest. In fact, this post is written in the spirit of facing my fears. I heard that my last post caused a bit of upset, which, now I read it back to myself, I can quite understand, and for which I feel mortified. What was meant as a light-hearted insight into India’s ubiquitous and actually quite endearing capacity for noise turned into a bit of a rant. When I look back, I wrote it at completely the wrong time – at a time when said noise was keeping me awake and when I was already grumpy and tired from a prolonged period of noise-induced lack of sleep.
It is a healthy reminder to me of the power of words and how there is a fine line to be made between my desire to write with honesty and my desire to shine a positive light on life. But life isn’t always sunshine and laughter and, like everyone, sometimes I get tired and my tolerance wanes. I still want to record those darker times that I’m not proud of – because they are part of the whole human package. To deny them definitely isn’t honest. But I’ve been reminded that it’s best to do so after some time to reflect, rather than in the heat of the moment. Only then can you report the actual truth, because in the heat of the moment we find ways to disguise truth from ourselves. And also, with time to reflect and analyse, I genuinely believe it’s possible (and very helpful) to find a positive outcome from any situation even if, as in this case, it’s a lesson learned.
None of us is perfect and we all sometimes do things, say things and, it seems, write things that we regret. But all is not lost as long as we learn from our mistakes and try and become a better person moving forward.
Luckily, when I discovered the negative outfall of my last post, I was mid-way through reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, an American psychiatrist. This book encapsulates my favourite kind of ‘eastern wisdom meets western rational thinking’. (And, in the spirit of finding positives from crappy situations, having time to read this has been one of the positive outcomes from my enforced bed-rest this week!)
As I descended into a negative thought spiral (‘Woe is me – how could I be so thoughtless? I’m such a bad person!’ etc) I suddenly halted, realising this event was an opportunity to think about some of the Dalai’s teachings. Firstly, he had warned of the dangers of anger. I’m not a particularly angry person, but I’m certainly not immune, and hunger and sleep-deprivation can bring on an irrationally irritable state in me, which I guess is a form of anger. The Dalai warned that succumbing to anger not only harms you in the immediate term, through creating stress, body tension, raising blood pressure etc, but it also harms you in the long-term as the outfall of your anger will inevitably return and bite you on the bum at some point (I’m paraphrasing). In this case I saw how, from writing my blog in an irrationally irritable mood, bad things happened as a result, making me feel much worse in the long run. So, lesson learned.
Secondly, the Dalai’s teachings on regret versus guilt really helped me. I have a tendency to harbour huge, out-of-proportion feelings of guilt that can plague me long after everyone else has forgotten about whatever ‘disaster’ I am torturing myself over. I have made good progress with this, but it still keeps me on my toes. But the Dalai speaks about accepting regret as a valid emotion when we’ve done wrong. He advises that it’s OK to hold onto regret as a way of reminding us not to make the same mistake again. Yet this regret shouldn’t be allowed to morph into guilt. Guilt is a pointless emotion, which keeps us living in the past and just serves to prolong our own suffering whilst usually doing nothing to rectify the situation at hand. Guilt is emotionally tiring whilst regret is a quiet helping hand.
So I’ve taken this on board and, from initially feeling like I couldn’t possibly return to Mysore – for shame! (this actually went through my mind…), I am instead using the episode to learn some important lessons, both as a blogger and a human, and move on, stronger and wiser.
I will still endeavour to write with honesty, but I think I’ve learnt that if I’m experiencing any hint of anger or irritability, then I should postpone my blogging until the feeling has settled and I’ve had a chance to reflect on its source. Because anger is not honest. Anger is blame, exaggeration, displacement, blindness. It is is a mask that hides the truth of a situation.